“God of the Broken” by Colleen O’Sullivan
It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. Instead, someone has testified somewhere:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under his feet. (Hebrews 2:5-8)
The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. (Mark 1:22-24)
O Loving Lord, speak with authority to that which leaves us broken and unclean. Heal us of whatever owns us that doesn’t come from You.
One of my favorite TV series is Chicago P.D. The Intelligence Unit men don’t usually wear uniforms, preferring street clothes for work. If I saw them on the street, they would blend into the crowd. Invariably, however, the “criminals” can spot them as cops a mile away. You can say the same thing about the unclean spirit in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus is dressed simply, as the majority of the people with whom he interacts. What marks him as different is the authority with which he speaks. Right away, the unclean spirit outs Jesus as the Holy One of God and assumes that Jesus has come to destroy him. Jesus casts the unclean spirit out, and the suffering man is suddenly free again. That’s a reasonably dramatic beginning to Jesus’ ministry. As we read through the Gospels, we see Jesus casting out what ails us and healing men, women, and children everywhere he goes.
We don’t use the same vocabulary today as people did in the first century to describe the things that keep us from being whole. There’s no question that we are all broken in places the way we express our ills aside. For some, it may be depression or anxiety. For others, perhaps physical ailments keep us from participating in life to the fullest. At one time or another, it’s sin and its consequences that weigh us down for every one of us.
When we see how Jesus deals with the problem presented by the man in the synagogue, I wonder why we go to such lengths to disguise or hide our failings and weaknesses. We say we’re fine when we’re not. We hide illnesses from friends and loved ones. We show a stiff upper lip to acquaintances when someone hurts us. We refuse to acknowledge our sins when confession and forgiveness could set us back on the path of life.
Today, the first reading addresses people who have trouble reconciling the picture of suffering, fully human God with a fully divine Lord. That isn’t easy to wrap one’s mind around. Consider what God was saying in doing this – by choosing a human being to be our Savior, God is underlining every human being’s dignity. And God is giving us the gift of a Savior who understands what it’s like to be human in everything but sin. The Psalm describes us as insignificant compared to God, but we are also given stewardship over all the rest of God’s creation, another sign of the great esteem in which God holds us.
The Good News today is that God did send us a Savior who was both fully human and fully divine. We have someone who knows firsthand how messy and imperfect our lives can be. Don’t try to hide your imperfections from the Lord. Share with Jesus in prayer today precisely what you are living with – your temper, your fears, your inadequate attempts to show love, your struggles with honesty, your physical and emotional ills, and, most of all, your sins. Whatever you are attempting to hide, open your hand and offer it to the Lord for healing. Jesus spent his entire time here on earth ridding people of the burdens they were carrying around, and it will be no different for us when we approach Him in prayer.